Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cuts Hit California's State Parks

Posted By on Tue, May 17, 2011 at 4:20 PM

In a move to help shore up its finances, the state of California is closing 70 state parks at a cost savings of $22 million. It’s a shame given that the list of closures includes several personal favorites.

For example, Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. This park was created by a joint venture between the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, Sonoma County Regional Parks and the State.

I first visited the Annadel when it was the site of the “Rockhopper-North” mountain bike race. At the time, Rockhopper-North was one of the major West Coast mountain bike races.

The racecourse that day was a mix of old double-track roads and single track weaving in and out of wild oak groves and past a reservoir.

A couple of years later, a group of us went to ride Annadel and found signs along the trail asking park users to write in as to what they’d like to see in the park, i.e. more trails for hiking and biking, less trails, on or off-leash dog access, etc.

Two years later on a visit to Marmot Mountain Works (then based in Santa Rosa) a friend and I went to ride Annadel. We found miles of new single track with signage indicating that the trails were part of a new system which was the number-one thing people had indicated in the public input that they’d like to have in the park.

The riding was terrific, a nice mix and free flowing with a few manageable technical sections. Wildflowers were abundant and the wild oaks made for some incredible, almost Mirkwood forests.

Now, who knows what will happen to the Park and the trail system which was one of the best close to a huge population base in the U.S. Perhaps the county groups already involved in the park will find a way to keep access available to the public.

Another California state park that’s closing is Castle Crags State Park. While lightly used, Castle Crags State Park (six miles south of Dunsmuir on I-5) offered proximity to the granite crags from which the Park gets its name. That, and 28 miles of hiking trails and access to fishing in the Sacramento River.

Although rock climbing is not as popular at Castle Crags as it was years ago, it’s still a great place to first experience climbing on granite.

Third on my list of parks I’m sad to see shut down is Samuel P. Taylor Park in Marin County. Nestled in the redwoods on the banks of Lagunitas Creek, Samuel Taylor Park offered camping minutes from the North Bay’s cluster of heavily populated towns and is but a short (under and hour) drive from San Francisco proper.

The park is also was a great takeoff point for road rides out to the coast along Highway 1 and by back roads north into Sonoma County.

I taught my boys about camping at Samuel P. Taylor Park. Later, they learned to ride their bikes on the park’s bike path.

Hopefully all three parks will be reopened in the future. Until then, they will be missed.

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